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Japanese Insider Guide to Eating Japanese in SF

San Francisco is home to a plethora of Asian restaurants, especially Japanese ones. From sushi to ramen and izakayas, how do you pick and know which ones are good? Growing up in Japan and missing that local Japanese flavor, here are my top picks in this city from high end to casual Japanese eats. 


Ichi Sushi - It's not your traditional sushi restaurant where you sit at a quiet sushi bar that only seats 12. It's lively and boisterous in a modern space. Ichi Sushi serves fresh fish in an innovative style, leaving your palette with a clean delicious flavor. The restaurant is busy on the weekend so make sure to make a reservation for a seat at the bar and leave it up to the chef by ordering the omakase menu. 

Picture Credit: Focussnapeat.com

Kappou Gomi The most traditional Japanese restaurant in San Francisco (in my opinion). Located in the Outer Richmond right next to a flower shop on Geary, you would walk right past it without noticing there was an intimate traditional Kaiseki restaurant. Kappou Gomi offers a long menu of traditional Japanese kaiseki style dishes, so you will not find any sushi rolls on the menu. Dishes such as grilled or simmered sea bream, sashimi, and clay pot dishes are just a few of the hundred items on the menu. Delicate, unique Japanese flavors and the attention to detail in every dish, makes this restaurant one of the best.

Picture credit:  matchadippedbaguette.wordpress.com

Izakaya Sozai - An izakaya that puts a small twist on authentic Japanese dishes, and for the better. The spicy tuna on crispy rice, the assortment of skewers, and the tonkotsu chasu rice bowl are a few of my favorites. It is higher end for an izakaya in terms of the quality of the ingredients and dishes. It's a tiny restaurant therefore there's always a wait, so make reservations in advance. Don't miss the ramen! 

Photo Credit: thirstyreader.com

Orenchi Ramen - After all the hype of ramen has cooled down in this city, I still enjoy going to Orenchi Ramen for my ramen fix. I love that they have a range of styles, flavors and noodles. From my favorite, the spicy miso tsukemen (dipping broth) to the chuka soba in the soy-based broth. I love that they have rice bowls topped with salmon roe to cleanse your palette. If there's a wait, stand at the outdoor bar and order a cold beer or hot sake while taking in the delicious smells of ramen.

Picture Credit: orenchibeyond.com

Izakaya Kou -  Located in the Fillmore district on the corner of Geary and Fillmore, you'll find an authentic Japanese izakaya. Go with a group of friends and reserve a private room where you take off your shoes before entering, and where you press a button to get your servers attention. The okonomiyaki (Japanese style pancake) is worth the visit alone, the kabocha (pumpkin) croquette, and the cha-soba (green tea cold noodles) are authentic and delicious.

Picture Credit:  izakayakou.com

Tanpopo - Whenever I have the desire for a casual home cooked meal I go to Tanpopo. Located in Japantown, it has the feel of a local diner with a Mama-san in charge. Inexpensive, filling yet delicious, you can get a wide range of food to satisfy your Japanese cravings. The ramen is delicious and no-nonsense and the chahan (fried rice) with the side of broth is soul warming.

Picture Credit: Yelp.com

ICHI Sushi,
Izakaya Sozai,
Orenchi Beyond,
Izakaya Kou,

About the Author

Chef Kellan Hori

After six years in the kitchen and many extraordinary events, Kellan has become more than a chef, he’s cooking up experiences. From small intimate dinner parties, cooking lessons, and family meals to large corporate bar-b-ques, beer dinners, and holiday soirées, the Kitchen has it covered. Kellan and crew are not just cooks and servers, they’re hosts, cocktail gurus, and burgeoning sommeliers. With a focus always on the food, Kellan’s Kitchen also pays great attention to hosting, vibe, comfort and the vision of the host. Everyone must walk out with a smile, full belly, and sometimes a nice buzz.